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Karl D. Lewis, MD


MicroRNAs and Their Potential as Prognostic and Diagnostic Tools in Skin Cancer

By: Jenna Carter, PhD
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2022

An article published in Expert Review of Molecular Diagnostics highlighted the use of microRNA biomarkers as potential prognostic and diagnostic measures in patients with skin cancer. Manuela Ferracin, PhD, of the University of Bologna, Italy, and colleagues examined and summarized studies that performed microRNA identification and quantification, providing comprehensive methodology on their diagnostic and prognostic practices. Based on their findings, the study authors proposed that circulating microRNAs display relevant biomarker potential for several different skin cancer types.

“Early cancer detection biomarkers maximize the chances of patients’ survival, and prognostic biomarkers can help clinicians in the choice and monitoring of treatments…. Many studies have demonstrated so far that microRNAs…play a critical role in the regulation of cancer-related processes such as proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, metabolism, invasion, metastasis, and drug resistance,” stated Dr. Ferracin and colleagues.

The authors examined research articles that recounted the performance of microRNA identification and quantification using appropriate sample size and statistics and provided detailed methodologic information. They presented their findings based on the role of microRNAs in the different types of skin cancers separately and then culminated their work by formulating their expert opinion based on the research conducted thus far.

Their reported findings highlighted that for cutaneous melanoma, circulating miRNAs—specifically miR-21-5p and miR-150-5p—were validated as key biomarkers by a number of independent studies. They also highlighted that cell-free miR-21-5p is typically upregulated not only in patients with melanoma, but also in other cancer and noncancer conditions. With respect to disease specificity, they outlined a list of other miRNAs that appear to be disease-specific. They included miR-375-3p, which was found to be specific to Merkel cell neuroendocrine tumors, and miR-124-5p and miR-142-5p, which were specific to cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Based on these findings, the study authors concluded that accurate detection and quantification of circulating miRNAs have great potential as cancer biomarkers.

Disclosure: For full disclosure of the study authors, visit

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